Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I’ve Got the Runs: Larry’s Hama’s Wolverine

Larry Hama took a lot from Logan: the reliability of his memories, his adamantium, that “snikt” sound he makes when his claws pop, his greatest enemy’s mental faculties (just kidding!), and for a time his nose. That’s a lot of deconstruction for a character who still managed to show up in what felt like almost every Marvel book in the 1990s. (Although certainly, by making Wolverine an Avenger in the 2000s, the company was determined to double down on that glut)

Hama, also known for his work on G.I. Joe, Bucky O’Hare and a number of Venom miniseries, wrote Wolverine’s solo title from 1990 to 1997, with a few hiatuses in between, writing issues 31 to 53, 55 to 57, 60 to 109 and 111 to 118.

But let’s drill down a bit, because if I’m being honest, my Wolverine’s a little rusty. Strike that; rust implies metal, and when I started reading the book in 1993, he had just had the metal sucked out of him during a pretty sweet fight with Magneto aboard his orbital space station (because every few years, a mutant leader is required to have a floating space station or island utopia).

The great adamantium-suck gave Wolverine some time to go wandering, to leave the X-Men, to fight old enemies so they could say, “Holy crap, where’d your adamantium go? And why do you still have claws?”

Lady Deathstryke, who was all set to kill Logan, Heather Hudson and Puck when she shows up at Hudson's house in Ottawa, takes pity on him and walks away. The pseudo-vampire Bloodscream stalks him across Canada, to Muir Isle and back, teaming up with the androids Albert and Elsie Dee in a subplot that disappears after issue 86. Cyber stomps off half of Wolvie's claws on one hand (which slowly heal, issue by issue) and pumps him full of hallucinogens and poison. The Hand walk away from him, after Yukio logics them into thinking they had the wrong guy with the same haircut and speech patterns. Maverick goads him into attacking him, but only because the Legacy virus has made him suicidal.

There's a recurring theme of Wolverine dropping in on old friends and being trapped by a killer. He's taken to Muir Island and is hunted down by Cyber, then two arcs later visits Alpha Flight’s Mac and Heather Hudson in the arctic and is trapped at a research station by creatures called the Hunters in Darkness.

Finally, he returns to the X-Mansion in issue 90 to find nobody’s home but us Sabertooths (the team was off trying to stop Legion from going back in time to kill Magneto, resulting in the death of Xavier instead and the creation of the Age of Apocalypse timeline). Logan and Creed have one of their more epic tussles, which ends with Wolverine jamming a claw right through Sabertooth’s brain just as their timeline unravels.

90 is one of Hama's best issues. He does a great job of contrasting Wolverine and Sabertooth's fight in the mansion with the on-TV police beating and arrest of a serial killer who has numbed himself to pain to allow him to resist arrest, much like Creed keeps zapping himself on the force field of his containment unit to get used to the pain and make good his escape.

When the X-books return four months later, Sabertooth is being cared for by the X-team as a simpleton and Wolverine becomes an outside dog, living on the grounds of the estate as opposed to inside with the more trusted members of the team, like the Cajun who can’t help but give off a rape-y vibe and the blue-skinned guy who’d done time as the embodiment of death.

It’s at this point that Hama begins building toward what we think will be the return of Logan’s adamantium, as it’s revealed that Cable’s son Tyler Dayspring, now going by Genesis and wearing Apocalypse’s old armor, has busted Wolvie’s old enemy Cyber out of prison to steal his adamantium and bond it to Logan. In issue 100, the bonding process fails, leading Wolverine into such a feral state that he LOSES HIS NOSE! Let me repeat: The X-Man known for his superior sense of smell LOST HIS NOSE. Comics, everyone! Don’t worry, it got better, but mostly only because artists either forgot or tired of drawing him in a bandana with a face that looked like it had been stepped on by the Juggernaut.

Marc Silvestri drew the issues in the early part of Hama’s run. Adam Kubert took over starting with 75. I was a big fan of the Kubert Bros. back then, between Adam on Wolverine and Andy on X-Men. Also, issue 80 features early work by Ian Churchill, who went on to draw a four-issue Deadpool mini and was the regular penciller on Cable for a time.

Kubert uses a lot of vertical layouts, requiring the reader to flip the book every few pages.
Issue 90 also experiments with gatefold pages. Again, an interesting idea, but when the fold breaks right on a word bubble it can be hard to read. Combine that with vertical layouts, and reading can be an exercise in patience. I can only imagine how they dealt with this in collected editions.

New friend: Issue 79 marks the first appearance of Zoe Culloden, expediter for the interdimensional firm of Landau, Luckman and Lake, who would go on to play a big role in Joe Kelly's Deadpool run as well.

Crossover interruptus: While "Fatal Attractions" sets up the adamantium-free Wolverine story quite nicely, 1994’s "Phalanx Covenant" kinda jams its way into a story in progress about Wolverine in Canada and Bloodscream tricking Albert and Elsie Dee into helping him find Logan. And of course 1995’s "Age of Apocalypse" interrupts a perfectly good Sabertooth fight. Onslaught comes calling in 1996 just as Logan loses his nose, and Hama's run ends with 1997’s "Operation: Zero Tolerance."

Easter egg: a video from a scientist in issue 80 talks about a sample of Wolverine's tissue labeled “Logan X #23.” COINCIDENCE?

Funny ad alert: A comic shop in Virginia announced it was holding a memorial service for Professor X, after the events of "Legion Quest." Wonder if they did the same thing in 2012?

Hama’s run is available in Essential Wolverine Vols. 2 through 6. Vol. 6 also includes a four-issue story by Warren Ellis titled “Not Dead Yet” that sticks with me because, well, Ellis is my jam.

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